Why do women lose breast sensation after mastectomy?
There are sensory nerves that run from your breast to the brain, sending messages that allow you to feel touch, temperature—even pain. But these nerves need to be cut during a mastectomy so the breast tissue can be removed. If the nerves aren’t repaired during breast reconstruction, they no longer send signals. No signal means no sensation. This usually results in numbness and loss of feeling in the breast area.
How does losing breast sensation after mastectomy affect women?
Loss of breast sensation after mastectomy can have a negative impact on quality of life. Research has shown that loss of breast sensation can affect body image and psychological health, as well as risk of injury.1,2 For many women, breasts they cannot feel do not feel like their own.3
What is autologous (free flap) breast reconstruction?
Autologous, or free flap, breast reconstruction uses your body’s own tissue – a free flap – to rebuild a warm, natural-looking breast that ages and changes with you. The flap tissue usually comes from the abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs or back. This flap is moved to the chest and rebuilt into a breast mound. Using magnification during surgery, the surgeon reattaches blood vessels in the flap to those in the chest.
What is Resensation®?
Resensation is a surgical technique that allows surgeons to reconnect the nerves that were cut during your mastectomy to the nerves in the flap used to form the new breast using a nerve allograft (donated human tissue). Over time, the nerves regenerate, potentially restoring sensation and becoming a part of your own body in the process.
When is Resensation performed?
Resensation is performed at the same time as breast reconstruction.
Resensation can be performed during an immediate reconstruction (at the same time as the mastectomy) or a delayed reconstruction (months or years after the mastectomy). In some cases, Resensation may be performed along with an autologous reconstruction as a revision to a failed implant reconstruction. You and your plastic surgeon can determine the right timing based on your desires, medical condition and cancer treatment.
Why is Resensation a potentially important advancement for women after mastectomy?
Historically, sensory nerves were not repaired during breast reconstruction surgery, leaving women with limited to no return of sensation. Though reconstructed breasts can achieve cosmetically desirable results – size, shape, softness and symmetry – women typically cannot feel touch or temperature in the chest area after reconstruction. The Resensation technique allows the surgeon to bridge a gap between nerves in the free flap and nerves in the chest wall. With Resensation, women have the potential to restore lost sensation in reconstructed breasts.
What are the potential benefits of returning sensation to the breasts?
Studies suggest that breast neurotization may provide a variety of benefits in terms of physical safety, body image, emotional health and overall quality of life4. For example, a recent study found that neurotization had a positive impact on women’s quality of life after mastectomy. Specifically, the study found that women who had neurotization as part of their DIEP flap surgery, a common type of free flap breast reconstruction, reported a greater sense of physical well-being of the chest than women who did not have neurotization. Women with neurotization were also more likely to report their reconstructed breasts “felt like their own.”5
Am I a candidate for Resensation?
You may be a candidate for breast neurotization with Resensation if you are considering or undergoing an autologous breast reconstruction using a free flap, such as the DIEP flap surgery. Talk to your plastic surgeon to see if you are a candidate, but keep in mind that many surgeons do not yet offer Resensation. Find a surgeon who offers breast neurotization using our Resensation locator.
What type of surgeon performs Resensation?
Resensation is performed by breast reconstruction plastic surgeons specializing in microsurgery. Microsurgery is a type of surgery that must be performed under magnification using precision instrumentation to repair intricate blood vessels and nerves.
To find a surgeon in your area, go to our Resensation locator.
How long does it take to restore some level of feeling after breast neurotization?
It takes time for nerves to heal and grow after breast neurotization. Nerves typically grow 1-2 millimeters a day6. (For comparison, a dime is about 1 millimeter thick.)
Plastic surgeons who perform the procedure report that women typically start to regain sensation several months after neurotization and the feelings can continue to develop for up to two years7. Axogen is leading the effort to collect more data on outcomes through our Sensation-NOW™ registry.
Where can I find a surgeon who performs Resensation?
Breast neurotization with Resensation is performed by a growing number of plastic surgeons with expertise in microsurgery. Find a surgeon who offers breast neurotization using our Resensation locator.
Is Resensation covered by insurance?
Breast reconstruction is a covered procedure; however breast neurotization coverage may differ by insurer. Coverage is determined on a case by case basis by the insurer, which typically requires the surgeon to secure pre-authorization in advance of the procedure.